Transport & Trucking Australia editor Allan Whiting went along to the launch of the upgraded Isuzu D-MAX and M-UX and found out what the diesel ute/SUV maker has done to the new models.

Isuzu Ute has upgraded the leaf spring rear suspension on its SX, LS-U and LS-T cab models, replacing the five-leaf spring pack with a softer riding three-leaf design as part of its updated D-Max and M-UX model line up for 2018.

The top-shelf LS-T also received some of the equipment featured in the MU-X LS-T model, including 18-inch wheels with Highway Terrain tyres, satellite navigation, roof rails and a passive entry and start system.

The D-MAX LS-T has also scored perforated-leather faced seats and soft-touch, leatherette-trimmed dashboard, glovebox lid and armrest.

All LS-grade D-MAX models picked up two 2.1-amp USB outlets – one in the dashboard and one in the centre console.

Load capacity of all D-MAX models increased slightly, with an upgrade of GVM rating across the entire range to 3050kg, from 2950kg.

Bumper-mounted reversing cameras have been made standard on all ute models and optional on cab/chassis models.

Another standard inclusion on all 2018 D-MAX models is Trailer Sway Control (TSC), that used the vehicle’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) to help eliminate trailer ‘snaking’, by automatically using selective accelerator and brake action, without driver intervention.

Isuzu Ute Australia resisted the temptation to give the LS-T a visual going over, along the lines of Ford’s Wildtrak or Raptor, because its core market is the more practical ute buyer, who values substance above appearances.

At launch the upgraded LS-T carried a $54,700 RRP tag.

Isuzu Ute Australia staged a comprehensive test day for the new vehicles, with loaded and empty vehicles fitted with the new three-leaf rear springs and two vehicles pulling trailers: a 1750kg boat trailer with 175kg towball weight and mechanical override brakes and a 1900kg caravan with 180kg ball weight and electric trailer brakes.

The new rear suspension had less harshness and bump reaction than the five-leaf 2017 model provided for comparison, yet a loaded crew cab, with 600kg in its cargo tub, handled that weight while remaining level.

All the test vehicles handled on and off road conditions very easily and we appreciated the three-litre engine’s braking power when descending steep grades with trailers in tow: engine braking that’s lacking in smaller-capacity diesels.

A highlight of the launch day was the opportunity to take the Team D-MAX precision driving squad vehicles for a run on skid-pan surfaces at the Mount Cotton (Brisbane) Training Facility premises.

Although these tricked-up machines weren’t available to the public, they illustrated only too clearly the degree of punishment the D-MAX can absorb.

These vehicles had loud exhausts, stiffer shock absorbers, Toyo tyres, roll cages, race seats and hydraulic handbrakes. When performing for crowds around the country they spent most of their performing time with their NoSpin locking rear diffs engaged and some of their time climbing and descending the world’s steepest ramp (45-degrees), flying over the yawning gap between two ramps and running on two wheels, with their off-side wheels in mid-air.